After a long, accomplished career and four Oscar nominations, Morgan Freeman won a standing ovation from academy members as he accepted the best supporting actor award Sunday, his first, for his role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
“It signified total acceptance,” he told reporters backstage about the ovation. “It’s kind of humbling to see people so happy I’d been named for this award. A lot of people say you’re overdue. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. But it’s an accolade.”
Also nominated were Alan Alda for “The Aviator,” Thomas Haden Church for “Sideways,” Jamie Foxx for “Collateral” and Clive Owen for “Closer.”
In “Million Dollar Baby,” Freeman plays Scraps, a worn-out boxer, blind in one eye, who works for a gym owner played by director Clint Eastwood.
He accepted the award with a short, dignified speech. “I want to thank everybody and anybody who ever had anything at all to do with the making of this picture.... It was a labor of love.”
Freeman especially thanked Eastwood, who also directed and starred with him in 1992’s “Unforgiven.”
Later, he said, “I’m the kind of actor who likes to get carte blanche. Clint hires you because he knows what you can do. He’s completely out of the way. He’s directing the picture. You do the acting. I love that. That’s why he gets what he gets.”
Freeman, who once claimed he preferred to be “unrecognizable,” has often been cast in roles that were not specifically written for black characters.
Freeman was nominated previously as best supporting actor for 1987’s “Street Smart” and for best actor in 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy” and in 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption.”
After losing the Oscar for “Driving Miss Daisy,” he said, “I became philosophical about an Oscar. It occurred to me that winning the nomination is the height of it, the best you can reasonably go. After that it’s pretty arbitrary. Who can be ‘the best’?
“But when they call out your name, all that goes out the window, of course.”
Times staff writer Elaine Dutka contributed to this report.